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The price for spending an eternity in Billings could soon increase.

Just as house and land values rise, city officials say it’s time for bump in the price tag of real estate in the city-owned Mountview Cemetery.

If the City Council approves the proposal at its Aug. 13 meeting, the cost for a full-sized, traditional grave site will rise from $450 to $550. Prices will remain the same in the infant and cremation sections. The proposal would also clarify and simplify pages of laws governing graves in the city.

Officials justify the 22 percent increase, saying the price for a plot in Mountview will still be less than the $688 average cost for a grave at seven different cemeteries in Billings, said Don Kearney, director of parks, recreation and public lands.

Mountview is on the south side of Central Avenue just east of 19th Street West.

Grave prices were last raised in 1997. Kearney said small increases are generally considered every three years. Prices would drop for 240 plots in the city’s three columbariums – above-ground burial units at the cemetery. Billings spent about $40,000 in 1997 to install the vaults. To date, not one of the stacked sites have been sold. Prices range from $830 to $950, with upper units fetching premium prices. Proposed prices would drop to $600 to $700. Kearney hopes the adjustment will help the city recover some of its cost on the units.

“You can price yourself out of the cemetery business,” Kearney said. “It’s a delicate balance.”

About 24,000 people are buried at Mountview, which the city purchased in 1920. Space remains for 5,000. The city projects about 120 grave plots will be sold each year, meaning the cemetery will not be full until 2045.

The cemetery could have plots open even longer if the trend toward cremation continues to rise. Cremation plots are smaller than the traditional 60 square-feet and cost $300. Slightly over half the people buried in Billings this year have been cremated, Kearney said.

Thirty percent of the cost of a grave goes into an endowment designed to pay for lawn mowing and graveyard maintenance for as long as Billings exists. About $350,000 is in the fund. City officials hope to have more than $1 million socked away by the time all the plots are spoken for, Kearney said.

James Hagengruber can be reached at 657-1232 or at jhagengruber@billingsgazette.com

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